Category Archives: Other Technology
As with most music educators, the end of the school year, following the last concert, is an easier time of the year. Not with classroom management, perhaps, but that was particularly true for me this year. Instead of trying to find worthwhile activities for the last days, we went back to ukuleles and played through various songs. This worked tremendously well.
Brian Ellison, a middle school Band and general music teacher, recently posted this tweet about using ukuleles…
Ultimately, this is what it is all about. I have up to 60 students at a time on ukulele…but the involvement is the same. And the bonus is that KIDS SING ALONG. Watch the video again if you need to…you will see it. Robin Giebelhausen (https://soundeducators.org) talks about the power of fooling middle school students into singing.
Some people are even using these songs with adult ukulele jam sessions!
If you are going to use these…I suggest planning ahead, downloading the videos you want (www.keepvid.com, but don’t get fooled by the misleading download options) rather than relying on Wi-Fi in a presentation!
About copyright…YouTube notifies us that songs are under copyright, they cannot be monetized (not the goal anyway), and any advertisements you see generate income for the copyright holder. Only one song that I created (Faith! From “Sing”) was banned…and another educator created a version which is being allowed. Who knows.
I have made a few of these videos in the past…and have been trying different approaches in doing so.
Early on, I was trying to make scrolling “sheet music” with accompaniments made with iReal Pro and Notion. Later, I was using lyric videos from YouTube (see Dr. Reese’s “How To” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2n1Lb9TL9Q).
After our concert, I started making a few new songs and then just kept going. I made videos of songs that my choirs had sung. I made videos of songs that came to my attention that were fun (and sometimes challenging). Eventually, I stopped using lyric videos and made my own Keynotes of lyrics and chords.
I have been working with John Baxter from ukefarm.com to develop some ukulele chord resources for music education. Coming soon: Chordette for Education which is a program that allows you to use ukulele fonts in documents, keynotes, etc. You can even do this on an iPad! One of the fonts features colored strings to match the Aquila KIDS strings.
One of the challenges with ukulele is that many songs were written for ease of playing on a guitar. E is a great key for Guitar. It is a crummy key for ukulele. Therefore, a lot of songs need to be “tweaked” up or down a half step or a whole step to be more accessible on ukulele (more than that, and the original audio really starts to suffer). Sometimes the original key was OKAY, but a transposed key was more accessible. In those cases, I started making two versions of a play along.
Pretty soon, I had a bunch of songs going with my format, and if the song was easy, I could make a video in an hour. I had a new goal…make 30 unique videos (not counting multiple keys) in the month of June…one a day.
The songs have different purposes. Some are standard ukulele jam songs. One of the benefits of this approach to teaching ukulele is that you can teach kids with THEIR music. However, they should also learn some of the standard songs used in ukulele jams so they can play along with players in other places (and in other age groups). And as I said, some are songs that I like.
I wrapped that project up this evening with my 30th unique song of the month (June 22nd…ahead of schedule). There are some special things in the last 30 days, such as a GREAT song by the Jive Aces called “Bring Me Sunshine,” jeremy messersmith’s “Everybody Gets a Kitten,” “Another Day of Sun,” me singing on a version of “The More We Get Together,” and tonight a very special video using the Bacon Brother’s recent video of a ukulele song they sang on their tour bus (had to figure out all the chords for the song…and included the original video). The only dud, in my opinion, is Heart and Soul, but even that is okay…and it is interesting to hear the whole song…not just what kids play on the school piano all the time. As always, if something isn’t of interest to you, don’t spend much time with it.
So, Ukestuff Play Along Songs (some have been around longer than this month). The titles are clickable links to each of the songs I have created. In the future, this PDF will be in the “Videos” page and regularly updated. This version will remain static to 6/22/2017.
I also started another side project, which was to make an index of ALL the ukulele play along songs in this style…168 of them so far. I am going to share that index as soon as I share it with the creators first.
What other songs are needed? Religious and non-religious holiday music play alongs. And then any other songs that you might want created. Have a suggestion? E-mail me. If there is a YouTube video with the music, please reference that video–and of course, chord charts are useful, too.
I am not setting a goal of another 30 songs in July…but I will make some new videos…and there are some other projects that I want to get to.
Some might ask: aren’t you worn out from the year? The answer is YES, and I will blog about that later. That said, doing things like this renew my spirit and cause me to think deeper musically than I generally get a chance to do all year. I have also had a chance to spend time with my kids, play ukulele at a Veteran’s Home, and participate in some local ukulele jam sessions.
This video will be cross-posted on ukestuff.info
Note: This post will be posted on both techinmusiced and ukestuff.
One of the best aspects of this “non-job” has been the people I have had the opportunity to meet. I can’t think of a single person in the area of music education technology that I have not immediately liked. Simply put, the music education technologists that I know are also some of the finest, most intelligent, collegial people I have met. I learn from them, as I am sure they learn from me–and I enjoy hearing about their lives and getting to know more about them.
This winter, I had the chance to present sessions at the Maryland Music Education Association, mostly thanks to Robby Burns, who has served as the MMEA’s technology chair. Robby is an incredible teacher and technology user, and has a blog, podcast, and even a book on digital organization (Buy it! Paper. Kindle. See his awesome promo video at the bottom of this post). If we have “specialties,” I would say that Robby is a specialist in secondary band and technology automation. He looks for ways for technology to simplify his life and to make automatic processes that solve problems, keep things organized (for himself, his program, and his students), and to ultimately create more free time for himself and his family. When you see Robby’s presentations, hear his podcasts, or read his book or blog, you need to know that like all the music technology experts I have met, he lives what he is teaching. The knowledge comes from real life experience, and is personally tested.
One of the highlights of my trip to Maryland was spending 30 minutes with Robby (until we were kicked out of the exhibit hall as it closed) simply talking about apps that either of us did not know. One of those apps was Any Font.
Robby discussed how he loved Any Font, as he was able to use any font on his iOS devices for anything–documents, presentations, whatever. While I should have been writing down every app he suggested (I only typed out a few–and thus, I am not the expert on digital organization), that conversation is locked in my brain.
I blogged about the new version of Chordette the other day, an app that provides a way to use a font to make ukulele chords–something of great use if you teach ukulele. However, if you use the fonts embedded with Chordette–they are not going to show up correctly on an iPad (ever get the Keynote message that a font is not available? Even if the font is no longer used in the presentation? Any Font is one solution, and there is another that I will add at the end of this post). I have also been working with the developer of Chordette to make a font set that uses the colors of the Aquila KIDS strings–and would love to use those fonts in my presentations. Fonts are always better for a smaller document size than an image–which is why a PDF of music created by a software program (e.g. Finale, Sibelius, Notion, Dorico, MuseScore) is always smaller than scanned music (embedding a picture in the PDF).
I haven’t had need of fonts other than the standard fonts embedded in iOS, but Any Font allows me to put the Chordette CGCA ukulele fonts into iOS. You send a True Type Font (TTF–most are in this format) to Any Font (you can even “Open In” from iCloud Drive or Dropbox, but easiest is Air Drop from a newer Mac to an iOS device), and then select the fonts you want to install on your device. Any Font sends those fonts as a profile to your device, enabling those fonts for the iOS device to use. If you delete the profile, the fonts go away. You can always add a font and take it away later. Any Font also offers 1,000 additional fonts for $2 as an In-App Purchase–a pretty good deal. Of course, you can find a great number of fonts on the web for free, including musicological fonts that might be helpful in documents and presentations.
So…if you have ever wanted to use other fonts on your iOS device, or have had issues with Keynote telling you a font wasn’t available, Any Font is a great way to solve both of those issues.
It does make you wonder why Apple hasn’t made it possible to simply add fonts to iOS as you can on a Mac–perhaps this will be resolved in the future. Until then, I recommend Any Font to you, and want to offer thanks to Robby Burns for bringing this app to my attention.
Final note: Are you getting the “font not available” warning in Keynote, even after making sure all fonts were in the system? If you don’t want to install the not-used but still considered “missing” font, do this: Export the Keynote as PowerPoint, import that exported file into Keynote. Save the file. Problem solved.
While I now host most of my ukulele posts at my ukulele site (ukestuff.info), there are times where music education technology and ukulele interact with each other. Today’s focus is an example of that interaction. This post will be double posted (on techinmusiced and ukestuff) for that reason.
As I have written about in the past, I have incorporated ukulele into my choir program–both as a way to accompany choirs and also to have choirs learn how to accompany themselves. There is a legitimate use of the ukulele as a melody (or chord melody instrument), but that has not been my focus, and to be honest, instructional time is limited.
This year, I used a number of videos (YouTube) from Dr. Jill Reese, Dr. A, and Kevin Way to have my students learn how to play chords along with “real” music, including very current pop music. Generally, I would teach a chord, and then we would play songs that incorporated that chord as well as other songs that they already knew (it was a fun experiment in scope and sequence). As I introduced chords, I needed a way to show the ukulele chord that was being taught…but it was difficult to find a consistent fingering graphic to use on the web (I also liked putting a picture of a real hand making the chord shape on a fretboard as well).
There was a program, by John Baxter, called Chordette, which allows you to enter ukulele chords as a font. There was an old version that was no longer available, but when I reached out to John at his website (ukefarm.com), he was incredibly kind and shared a beta version with me, and was also open to feedback and special requests for chords.
As a result of using Chordette, I could have a consistent chord chart across all of my resources, and I was even able to use the font to make my own instructional ukulele play alongs like Dr. Reese, Dr. A, and Kevin Way using the Chordette Font.
The new version of Chordette is now available, and while no longer free, is a great resource if you teach ukulele or if you make ukulele resources. Furthermore, Chordette comes in a number of formats, including Soprano Ukulele (which is really ADF#B tuning–and not common in education settings), Standard GCEA ukulele tuning, Baritone Ukulele (DGBE), Mandolin, Tenor Banjo, and Guitar. So really, if you do any work on any of these instruments…Chordette is a good investment. If you buy more than one instrument, there are ways to get a multi-program discount. And if you order in May (2017) using the discount “ukefarm” (no quotation marks) you will get another 30% off. Let’s be honest here. If you teach or use ukulele, even the full price is worth every penny.
For the record, I am not receiving any referral bonus for mentioning this app, and while I did receive a beta for free, I have purchased Chordette for myself, too.
I’m not going to lie…I love this Mac/Windows application, and highly recommend it. Additionally, if you have suggestions, or even a special request…contact Mr. Baxter at UkeFarm and see what he can do. Again, you can find Chordette at www.ukefarm.com.
I have two Hewlett-Packard Apple AirPrint enabled printers at our house. One I bought for the family, the other I bought to bring to school (out of my own income). I brought the school printer home last year as students kept printing to it (not understanding or even caring that I was buying the ink and paper out of my own pocket), and we have been using our other printer as we do.
There were two problems: first, I have two young boys (5 and 9) who like to print things, and ink is expensive. As in ridiculously expensive. We are at the point where we need to buy another color cartridge for our printer (HP 60), at $25 each, or for $34 for a set of black and color cartidges. It really adds up.
I was trying to exchange our used cartridges for credit at Office Depot, but it turns out that you can only exchange ten cartridges a month (we had a stockpile of nearly 50) and you have to spend at least $10 a month to get the $2 credit per cartridge. We had exchanged 30 cartridges before figuring that out (I had to e-mail customer service), so we are no longer participating in that process. We were hoping to earn a good amount of money towards a new printer–but Office Depot’s policy/strategy makes it impossible to do that. Having to spend $10 to get $20 back that expires is not a good compromise.
We were intrigued by the promise of the newer Epson EcoTank printers that use refillable ink (very inexpensive on Amazon from other sources) for a printer that doesn’t cost that much more than a new HP printer. So, as we needed another set of cartidges, it was time to buy a new printer. I headed to Sam’s Club last week and bought the entry level Epson ET-2650 for just under $290 with tax.
Early reviews criticized print quality and connection to Apple devices–but in our experience so far, the printing looks fine, and it connects perfectly to our network and our devices–no worse than our HP printers.
We can now print in color without thinking of the price to do so. We can let the boys print things when they want to. My wife can print things without worrying about running out of ink. I can print things for school without having to worry about sending them via e-mail to print on school printers (for large orders, I would still send items to our district printing office).
And I will try to sell the printers, as is (needing ink), on Craigslist this summer for $25 each. Reastically, it might be a year of printing in our house and the EcoTank will pay for itself (particularly if you factor in the printing we are doing now that we were avoiding before).
I metion the printer on the blog, as you might need a printing solution for your home or office, or you, too, might be tired of the cost of ink cartridges for your printer. The EcoTank does require filling–but I don’t mind this–and you don’t need to take your empty cartridges to a specialty cartridge store to be refilled, either. The refill process is pretty painless…certainly easier than the old “fill your own cartridges” I used in previous printers (before manufacturers started putting smart chips on the cartridges that track how many copies they have printed).
While at the Illinois Music Education Conference, two band teachers introduced themselves and their work. They have created a website called The Shed, or Shed the Music, a resource that is currently free that features videos about music theory.